We-Hope is delighted to have begun working with the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN). Founded in 2003, KRAN is an immensely important refugee support organisation, given that the first place in the UK that most refugees experience is Kent, on the south east coast, where most road, rail and sea transport connects with mainland Europe.
KRAN has been at the forefront of resisting the ‘hostile environment’ that the current UK government has deliberately encouraged. KRAN’s volunteers work hard to welcome refugees on arrival, providing a range of advice and support. KRAN produced an inspiring video for International Migrants’ Day 2020 on a Christmas theme, which was massively popular on social media.
KRAN is especially concerned to reach out to young refugees. As one volunteer, Vicky Castle, recounted,
"I couldn’t cook, regulate my own emotions and really had no idea how to look after myself - much like most of my 15-year-old friends. So the group of teenagers I had the pleasure of meeting at Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) were unlike any teenagers I had met before. Most of these young people had fled extreme danger, made perilous, terrifying journeys and lived through unimaginable horrors. They were 16-year-olds who had suffered more trauma in their short lives than most of us will ever suffer. But when I caught up with them at KRAN's Folkestone centre, they had an attribute almost never seen on a teenager - the desperate will to work and learn."
KRAN is also a leading advocacy organisation for refugee rights. For example, it recently led the campaign to close Napier Barracks, an ex-army facility, where refugees were being housed in inhumane conditions, unable to protect themselves from COVID and deprived of the support to which they were entitled.
WE-Hope’s project lead, Heather Hughes, recently met with the CEO, Dr Razia Shariff and staffer Fawzia Worsley, to discuss how we could support each other. As a result, KRAN have agreed to assist in the collection of oral testimony; there are also possibilities for working together when our wonderful modern take on cantastoria is ready for public interaction, and for networking across Europe as a legacy of the WE-Hope project.
Canterbury in Kent, where KRAN is based, will be one of the stop-overs for Amal, the Syrian refugee doll, soon to start her epic journey all the way from the Syria-Turkey border to the UK in support of refugees. An initiative of Good Chance, which began in the Calais refugee camps, Amal is a larger-than-life puppet, created by the renowned Handspring Puppet Company based in South Africa.
Cultural organisations across Europe have cooperated to make Amal’s journey possible; we hope everyone who reads this will sign up to support the project and turn out to wish Amal and her human companions well. WE-Hope will certainly be following Amal’s progress and offering whatever support we can. We look forward to welcoming her, as she is visiting all the countries participating in WE-Hope: Greece, Italy, France and the UK.
This article was written by Heather Hughes from the
University of Lincoln, coordinator of the WE-Hope project.